POLITICS, as has been said already, is a muddy game, in which players do not hesitate to swim in the mud so long it serves the purpose.
They spend sleepless nights year-round in their skulduggery, always plotting to retain power. Politicians spend their days conjuring the best way to outfox and brutalise each other for the ultimate prize: power.
In that field, as Viscount Palmerston noted there are “…no eternal allies…no perpetual enemies...interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests we must follow”.
One needs to devise means to survive in a dog-eat-dog environment where friendship today is not guaranteed tomorrow otherwise political life will be “short, nasty and brutish” to quote the words of renowned political thinker Thomas Hobbes.
Politics is not for the faint-hearted as it is devoid of morals. Political survival is everything.
This is why Niccolò Machiavelli advises the Prince to be as witty as the fox yet brutal as the lion. The year 2022 has, in the Zimbabwean context, the ultimate political year, with high-octane drama setting off, playing on like a well-scripted opera right up to the end. A cocktail of events punctuated the year showing how the political playfield has twists and turns that sometimes find players off-guard.
Birth of the CCC
While several Zimbabweans were reeling from the perennial ‘January disease', a serious financial condition mainly caused by overspending during the festive season, the Nelson Chamisa-led Citizens for Coalition Change announced its arrival onto the country’ toxic and highly polarised political space on January 24.
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The party’s entrance put a lid on incessant squabbles over leadership of the MDC Alliance between Chamisa and Douglas Mwonzora. Chamisa vowed that the party would be citizens oriented as it would be influential in nation-building and policy-making decisions.
“We are going to restore the dignity of the people of Zimbabwe,” Chamisa was quoted as saying.
However, the Machiavellian politician appears to be presiding over a factious party with some senior members arguing that the delay in coming up with proper structures is a ploy to concentrate power on himself.
The litmus test for Chamisa and his party is coming in a few months in the general elections and for neutrals, it will be an intriguing nail-biting contest between the CCC and the ruling Zanu PF party.
The demise of the MDC
Politics is like a game of chess, where every move a politician makes is analysed and interpreted, not only for its significance in the wider electoral tournament but also for the possible moves, or false moves, it might induce from opponents.
Mwonzora deserves special mention for his actions in 2022. To some, he is a pawn in the hands of Zanu PF kingmakers, used to destroy the country’s main opposition while to others, just an intelligent politician.
He continued to frustrate the opposition CCC with recalls, something that destabilised the party and was rewarded handsomely with a US$149 850 000 windfall before the March 26 by-elections from the Political Parties (Finance) Act. He appeared to be scoring a lot of political goals.
Mwonzora proverbial fall from grace
Zimbabweans went to the polls on March 26 to vote for 28 national assemblies and 105 local council seats which fell vacant following the deaths, recalls, or dismissal of representatives by Mwonzora between May and October 2020.
The election was seen as a precursor to the watershed 2023 general plebiscite following the entrance onto the political sphere of the CCC whose leader promised fireworks.
One would be tempted to write about the violence that marred the election, and CCC’s victory among others but that election script is not worth reading if it is devoid of Mwonzora’s dismal performance. The party failed to win a single National Assembly or local government seat. For Mwonzora that was an embarrassing defeat likely to be repeated next year.
Chaos in the big tent
For the past donkey years, the revolutionary party, Zanu PF has been hogged by unremitting internal ructions that have claimed the political scalps of many party members.
In 2022, the party of visionaries and builders, as has become the norm, did not deny us quality political entertainment as factional fights continued unabated.
From the provincial polls, and primary elections conducted to select contestants for the March 26 by-elections to the elective congress, chaos reigned supreme. Calls by President Emerson Mnangagwa to drop chicanery, name-dropping, violence, or imposition of candidates ahead of central committee elections held in October fell on deaf ears. Leaders who are at each other’s throats in the big tent are the same people holding trowels building the nation.
Dark year for Sikhala
While many are already in the festive season mood, contemplating how they are going to enjoy themselves in preparation for the new year, the same cannot be said of CCC’s deputy chairperson Job Sikhala.
The firebrand politician was arrested in June and charged with inciting unrest following an orgy of violence that was witnessed in Manyame after the murder of opposition activist Moreblessing Ali. For the past six months, Sikhala has made countless attempts to be freed on bail but each one of them has hit a brick wall. In typical Antonio Gramsci fashion, he has written letters from prison, vowing that he will fight the system to the very end. Issues of judiciary independence have been brought into play with constitutional law expert Lovemore Madhuku explicitly noting that Sikhala’s arrest is more political than anything and there is a need for a political panacea.
One cannot be blamed for thinking that his arrest appears to suit both the ruling party and CCC well as he has been viewed as a threat to Chamisa’s throne and Zanu PF’s plans ahead of 2023. Will we see the return of Job?
The Jonathan factor
The annals of Zimbabwean history are incomplete without mentioning Jonathan Moyo, one of Zimbabwe’s foremost political conjurers. He has been true to his chameleonic tendencies, starting the year as an avid CCC cheerleader and often touted as its key policy advisor. They soon crossed paths, with Moyo launching one social media tirade after another against it and exposing its weaknesses. It culminated in a letter he co-authored with Patrick Zhuwao apologising to their erstwhile Zanu PF colleagues and courting colourful praises from the ruling party’s wordsmith spokesperson Chris Mutsvangwa.
Chiwenga ambition buried
The year, preceding a key general election, started with Zanu PF factions fighting for control of the party as elections for provincial leadership results brought further divisions.
Vice President Chiwenga reportedly leads a Zanu PF camp seeking to wrestle power from Mnangagwa. Those elections, as every other internal process showed, clearly revealed who the unassailable conjurer between them was.
This was most certainly cemented at the October Congress, which unanimously voted to retain Mnangagwa for the foreseeable future and, perhaps, beyond.
His backers argue it is now a tactical retreat but signs are clearly that Mnangagwa is not going anywhere, neither as a Zanu PF leader nor as a state president.